Isaiah 59:20

The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:

The English Bible misquotes the Hebrew Scriptures in Romans 11:26 when Paul says:

“And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written. There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”

The Hebrew Bible tells a completely different story. Isaiah 59:20 says:

“A redeemer will come to Zion, and to those of Jacob who repent from willful sin.”

Is it in or out of Jerusalem?

HaDavar’s Response:

This is an interesting question. The Hebrew says “to Zion.” The Septuagint says “for the sake of Zion.” The New Testament says “from Zion.” There is a lot going on here.

I believe the solution lies in the fact that Paul is not producing a one-to-one quote in the context. He is weaving together several thoughts from the Scriptures rather than quoting one passage. He is doing that in order to facilitate understanding. This is a perfectly acceptable practice in the Jewish culture of his time. He appears to be referring the reader to such passages as Isaiah 59:20, 27:9, 59:21; and Jeremiah 31:31.

This is a clear use of the first-century “fluid” approach to using Scripture mentioned earlier in The Four Ways the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) Uses the Hebrew Scriptures. This is an example of Literal Prophecy plus Summation. Paul is summarizing all that the Scriptures teach about the Second Coming and the institution of the Messianic Kingdom. It is at the Second Coming of Yeshua that He fulfills the role of “Messiah Son of David,” the “King Messiah.” He already has fulfilled the role of the suffering Messiah. Paul is directing the reader to a number of verses that paint a complete picture of what the Redeemer will accomplish when He comes again.

According to the great Messianic Jewish scholar, Dr. Alfred Edersheim, Isaiah 59:19-20 is applied to the Messiah and Messianic times in Sanhedrin 98a and Pesiqta 166b. The relevant paragraph of Sanhedrin 98a reads:

R. Johanan said: When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him [the Messiah], as it is written, And the afflicted people thou wilt save. R. Johanan said: When thou seest a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him, as it is written, when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him; which is followed by, And the Redeemer shall come to Zion. [1]

Clearly the Talmud connects the redeemer who will come to Zion with the Messiah. Pesiqtâ de-Rab Kahanâ, Supplement 5, 4 reads:

…Also “beautiful upon the mountains” is he that announceth redemption (Isa. 52:7), namely the redeemer of whom it is said “The redeemer shall come unto Zion” (Isa. 59:20).[2]

Here the Messiah of Isaiah 52:7 is the same person referred to in Isaiah 59:20. There are solid Messianic connections to this verse. Paul affirms that connection through his use of the quotes.

All in all, the three renderings present no real difficulty because all three are true. Does not the Deliverer come “for the sake of Zion,” that is, to rescue Zion, as rendered in the Septuagint? Does He not also come “to Zion,” as rendered in the Masoretic Text? How else could He save Zion? It is also true that Jesus the Messiah came “out of Zion,” as in the New Testament since He is Jewish. Each of the renderings would emphasize one factor or another of the institution of the glorious Messianic Kingdom. There are textual differences but not conceptual differences. By referring to each of them we get a fuller and more complete picture of the Messiah’s ministry to Zion.

  1. ^ The Soncino Talmud (©1973 Judaica Press, Inc. and ©1965, 1967, 1977, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, & 1990 Soncino Press, Ltd.) is a product of Judaica Press, Inc. Brooklyn, NY, and, if included, is incorporated herein pursuant to exclusive license.
  2. ^ Huckel, T. (1998) The Rabbinic Messiah (Is 60:1) Philadelphia: Hananeel House.